Ocean Protection
July 14 2011

Surfrider Makes a Splash at the National Ocean Policy Sessions

by Pete Stauffer

Surfrider members recently attended a number of listening sessions held around the country on the new National Ocean Policy. The sessions were organized by the National Ocean Council (NOC) to gather public input on strategic action plans being developed to implement the policy’s priority objectives. The National Ocean Policy was established by President Obama in July 2010 to “protect, maintain, and restore the health and biological diversity of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources”.

At sessions in New Jersey, California, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, and elsewhere, Surfrider members expressed strong support for the National Ocean Policy, while also pushing federal officials to strengthen actions identified in the draft outlines. Major points of emphasis focused on improving federal leadership on issues such as water quality, marine debris, and ecosystem protection. 

“Strong policy statements are often meaningless without local stakeholder involvement and aggressive implementation and enforcement”, said Drew Kerr, a volunteer with the Portland Chapter. “We need better coordination and prioritization of efforts across the wide range of federal, state, and local entities and jurisdictions."

At the New Jersey session, Joe Woerner and Joe Mairo, Co-Chairs of the Jersey Shore Chapter, provided comments on the need to protect water quality off the mid-Atlantic coast. John Weber, Surfrider’s Northeast Regional Manager, spoke about the problems with plastics in the ocean and why we need serious policies on product stewardship to prevent trash from entering the marine environment in the first place.

Surfrider members also provided public and written comments on Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP) including the role Surfrider can play in providing community outreach and promoting participation from recreational users. At the Washington session, Jody Kennedy, Washington Policy Manager, emphasized the need for the National Ocean Policy to engage coastal communities in CMSP and support existing initiatives such as Washington State's community-based Marine Resources Committees. She also highlighted the importance of maintaining a grassroots approach in rural areas that make up a vast majority of Washington's coastline.

Surfrider was also proud to have former board member Kevin Ranker, Washington State Senator and NOC Governance Coordinating Committee member, present on the plenary panels at the Washington and Oregon sessions. After inspiring the Oregon crowd with an impassioned speech about the role that states and communities can play in implementing the National Ocean Policy, Senator Ranker closed his remarks by saying, “I’m really sorry I won’t be able to surf while I’m down here, you guys have some awesome spots in Oregon”. Thanks for keeping it real Kevin:)

(Photo credits: Kathy Greer).